Some good controversy around this idea of propaganda. The idea I was getting at was that all writing to some degree is propaganda in the broadest sense, meant to persuade and intended to evoke mental and emotional shifts through convincing communication. Orwellian undertones aside, I’m not willing to say either that all education is or is not propaganda (i.e. persuasion), or that fiction does not also aim to educate. The definitives and definitions are a bit indefinite by definition. However, I do believe all Christian writers worth their salt were assigned the task to use words to define, shape, and call into existence the metaphors that reveal God, namely truth, beauty, and goodness. There is a famous quote (bonus points to whoever knows the source) that goes, “Those who make a distinction between education and entertainment don’t know the first thing about either.” That may be somewhat didactic, but it bears a whole lotta truth. For that matter, as a writer, I may be a bit didactic with my fiction—intentionally or not—but I hope I also bear evidence of a greater truth. Without it, my work and life are meaningless.
Now don’t misunderstand. Those who aim to teach through story are a misguided bunch, denigrating the art to which they profess, the primary responsibility of this vocation of persuasion. But those who hold the opposite purist mindset that stories don’t necessarily, unavoidably teach as well are equally blind. The most vapid, sensationalistic, commercial crap teaches. Case in point coming soon to a theater near you…
It’s my humble (controversial) opinion that Christian writers should be the most controversial out there. I’m not going to state this as well as I’d like, but let’s suppose those who buy Christian books have a problem with sin, either in their own lives or those around them. If they didn’t see the problem or didn’t accept sin as a problem to be dealt with—if they couldn’t see how truly revolting sin is—what do you think would happen to Christian books that talk about the reality sin? Would those people be right to restrict those kind of books? If all Christian book buyers were not horrified by the soul’s true darkness, wouldn’t those books that deal with the reality and restitution of sin be all the more necessary?
Without the controversial truth of sin, there’s no possibility of resolution. I’m borrowing some of this from the ever-controversial Ted Dekker. Without contrast, is there any reason to paint at all? And why, if words were supposed to be safe, sanitized, platitudinous, would God himself use such foul language to describe sin in the Bible? (see Proverbs 26:11, Jeremiah 13:26 for a couple examples) Far beyond language, God actually did some of the foul things we’re not supposed to think or write about as Christians. I imagine some of the well-meaning folks pointing their fingers: “Hey, come on, God! Don’t you know that’s not Christian?” Can there be any greater folly?
If life wasn’t painful, there’d be no need for resolution. If we weren’t facing the existence of sin, there would be no need to cause offense by including it in our books. But we’re evil—too evil not to be offended. Sin is a grave thing indeed and striking it out is joining in the conspiracy to undermine restitution.
Should we not be angered by our own hypocrisy? If we weren’t, we might not be compelled to write truthfully. We must face our evil desires, face our repulsion and fight to be truthful for the sake of our calling. I believe in God’s purposes through evil, despite the opposition from our own. And I’m sorry for how this sounds, but I know now that we have to be controversial to reach the ones who need the metaphors most.